A new world order: is rugby finally becoming a global game?

It occurs on schedule. The Rugby World Cup begins every four years, and at least once the predetermined plot gets shattered. The rugby world briefly goes off balance when an elite nation suffers a shocking loss to what appear to be tier two opponents.

It recently occurred during Australia’s match versus Fiji in Saint-Etienne. Matt Williams, a former Waratahs coach, referred to it as “the worst defeat in Australian World Cup history.” Eddie Jones, the coach of the Wallabies, even asked irate supporters to punish him by hurling baguettes and croissants at him.

The fact that Australia lost to Fiji for the first time in 69 years hurt, but it wasn’t a major surprise. Fiji is ranked No. 8 in the most recent World Rugby rankings, one spot ahead of Australia.

With some of the top athletes in the world, Fiji was exceedingly unlucky to lose to Wales in their last pool game. Teams that compete in the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship are solely included in the definitions of tiers one and two. Only circumstance is taken into account; ability is not.


A much more robust player base for Fiji has resulted from the participation of the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby Pacific, which has also offered continuity. Ironically, a $1.8 million sponsorship contract with the federal government’s PacificAus Sports program helped to partially finance the team.

Along with other tier two countries, Fiji can now choose exceptional athletes who have played for other countries like New Zealand and Australia in the past. Due to a modification in World Rugby’s “birthright” law, athletes may now play for another country after three years of inactivity for their home country. It slightly flattened the playing field.

The Wallabies’ defeat by Fiji was not the biggest World Cup surprise ever. 2011 saw France defeat Tonga 19–14, go to the final, and fall just short to the All Blacks.

In 2015, Eddie Jones led the underdog Japan to victory over South Africa, and the Brave Blossoms replicated the giant-killing feat against Ireland four years later.

There is a much wider picture emerging from this year’s World Cup, even though Wallabies supporters will still be licking their wounds after the loss to Fiji. Due to their valor in losing to opponents with significantly more resources than they did, Uruguay, Chile, and Portugal have all gained new supporters.

The national fascination with football dominates all of the aforementioned teams. Their rugby teams are briefly in the public eye, which may encourage more people to get involved and support the sport.

But each of them had to go through a difficult World Cup qualification process to get to France. Before this competition, none of these three nations had ever faced a top-tier opponent. Their most recent performances are totally unexpected.

With more opportunities at the Test level or as part of a larger World Cup, as suggested by Peter FitzSimons in this masthead, World Rugby needs to remove the barriers that keep people out of the exclusive tier one lounge if rugby is to be seen as a global sport.


The performance of Portugal against his team was applauded by Welsh coach Warren Gatland, who argued that there should be more opportunities for groups like Os Lobos.

We must keep advancing these Tier 2-nations, according to Gatland.

“That is a crucial factor. You want upsets, not top-tier nations dominating, as long as I stay out of it, of course.

Gatland’s final remark was made in fun, but it has some truth to it. The top rugby-playing nations welcome the rise of emerging nations as long as it doesn’t harm them. They work in a highly competitive commercial atmosphere and frequently just consider the financial and scoreboard results of each season.


All of the power in the game is held by Australia, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand (SANZAAR), and the Six Nations, and any broad strategic choice on the expansion of the game will continue to be made on their terms.

Starting in 2026, a brand-new “World League” competition between the top nations in the northern and southern hemisphere will be held every other year. The only tier two countries that would be demoted or promoted before 2030 are Fiji and Japan, who are anticipated to be invited.

The elite league will be owned and run by Six Nations and SANZAAR, and World Rugby will establish a brand-new second-tier competition to allow for promotion and relegation matches.

Even though Georgia won Test matches against Wales and Italy last year, they will still be given a steady diet of victories over tier two opponents and the occasional goodwill scrap against a tier one opponent.

Georgia has a large rugby following, but they lack the financial clout of Portugal, Spain, or Germany, their usual rivals. As usual, money is the most vocal. If these possible hosts were competing on par with Georgia, it is difficult to envision the Six Nations ignoring the financial allure of regular matches in Lisbon, Madrid, or Berlin.

Fans from all over the world have filled stadiums for the World Cup. It gives a glimpse of the potential global phenomenon that rugby could become.

Unfortunately, the game’s development will be permanently stunted as long as the top-tier countries keep holding onto the majority of the spoils and occasionally celebrating unexpected victories every four years.


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